Alex Massie

Faith and Begorrah...

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Good lord, it's like the last thirty years never happened: the Irish government wants a new law to prohibit blasphemy. If passed then, astonishingly, the courts will be asked to decide if the supposed victim has been sufficiently outraged for there to have been an offence. Remarkable. And expensive too since it could cost you up to €100,000 and a visit from the Gardai Siochana to confiscate the "offensive material". As Carol Coulter explains:

For that to happen, a court will have to be satisfied the matter published is “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion”, and that the outrage was intentional. These provisions came unannounced in a proposed amendment to the Defamation Bill, which was before the Oireachtas Committee on Justice yesterday (but was not discussed)...

The proposed amendment makes the degree of outrage among adherents of any religion, in response to things said or written about them, a defining factor in determining whether an offence has been committed. We have seen elsewhere in Europe large-scale expressions of outrage by members of the Muslim community in response to films, books and cartoons. Books such as Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and films and cartoons, such as those published by a Danish newspaper and which offended some Muslims, would almost certainly be criminalised in Ireland by the present proposal.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail routinely and seriously offend more than half the country and yet there's no law saying we can have them locked up, is there? Then again they ain't locked up when they break existing laws...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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